As much as all parents hate toddler tantrums and do our best to avoid them with all the positive parenting strategies out there, tantrums are inevitable and will show up from time to time.
We've all been there. Toddler is in the store and sees something she wants.
She has to have it...NOW!!
We set our boundary of "no" and then hold it despite the mounting tears welling up behind your toddlers eyes. A wail escapes.
It's happening! A meltdown. In the middle of the store.
Before it starts to escalate to defcon 5, what do you do?
Try this positive parenting hack that will almost guarantee to calm a toddler tantrum in under 2 minutes.
Validate the Magnitude
Parents, you are going to do your best to remain calm despite the stares you might be getting from strangers. I highly suggest you close your eyes and take four deep breaths.
You are going to validate the magnitude of your toddler's tantrums. Your toddler is having BIG feelings right now, and we, as parents, want to recognize that.
I first heard of this from Dr. Becky at Good Inside.
First, you want to OK the feeling.
"You're feeling sad, angry, frustrated because you want the doll you saw. It's okay to feel sad, angry, frustrated."
Then, you are going to hold your boundary.
"But I said you can't have a new toy today. I'm sorry that makes you sad."
Now, you are going to VALIDATE the MAGNITUDE
"How sad are you right now? Are you this sad? [Hold hands close to your body like you are measuring something] Are you this sad? [Continue to stretch your hands wider] Wow! You are this sad? [Stretch your hands really wide] That's really sad!"
Another way to frame it that works well with my toddler is to pick two points and gradually stretch those points to be farther and farther apart.
"Are you as sad from the tippy tip of your head down to your itty bitty toe? Are you that sad? Or are you as sad as the top of the ceiling all the way down to the floor? Are you that sad? Wow! Or are you as sad from the top of the tree where the birds are all the way down to the dirt with the worms? Are you that sad? Are you as sad from way out to the sun all the way back to earth? That sad? That's really sad!
Usually after one or two distances, my son's tears subside as he looks at me in curiosity. He's processing his level of sadness. And before long, his tantrum is over.
Why it Works?
By validating the magnitude, we are letting our toddlers know that we are taking their feelings seriously and telling them that what they are experiencing is a big deal.
Our kids feel heard.
Another thing, according to Dr. Becky, is that we are taking something abstract (the feeling) and making it concerte which is less confusing to toddlers. That's why I also like to use sign language when teaching my toddler about his feeling or in the middle of his tantrum.
Our toddlers feel seen and understood, so...
They start to calm down.
And you can carry on in peace with a whole room full of parents impressed by you.
My parenting guide, Now What? Mindful Parenting Checklists for Life's Hard Moments has over 70+ strategies like this one.